Ducks Home Course An Emerald in the Sun

“Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain,” I said to myself, over and over, in a rhythmic chant as I drove back up the I-5 corridor. I haven’t gone this far since my trip to Portland last month, and the gray clouds looming overhead are giving me the idea that maybe this trip was a bad idea. I got off the interstate at the Creswell, Oregon exit and within minutes I was pulling into Emerald Valleythe parking lot of Emerald Valley Golf Club, home of the University of Oregon Ducks. The pavement was wet with the previous night’s rain, which continued to put a damper on my spirits. After a quick meeting with the head pro I was standing on the first tee box, my head full of contingency plans in case the rains came. As I stooped down and teed up my ball, an oak leaf blew across the tee box. I turned to see where it came from. I didn’t see which particular tree this leaf decided to emigrate from, but I did see the fairway light up with the sun’s emergence from its fortress of clouds. I smiled, and as I swung I couldn’t help but think sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the Pacific Northwest this time of year will tell you that it’s a wet, wet season, but if you played Emerald Valley you wouldn’t think so. The course was in fantastic shape despite the battering that the region takes from rain on what seems to be a daily basis. The maintenance of this course is a feather in the cap of the management (a duck feather, I believe). So let’s start at the beginning.

The tee boxes were the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of teeing up. I’m not hyperbolizing here, they were that good. The tee boxes at Emerald Valley had everything they needed and nothing they don’t. There are yardage signs on each of the four tees (yellow, blue, white, and red) and conveniently placed ball washers, with towels. There were next to no divots, and what few were there, were filled with sand and grass seed and kept so neat that there were no piles of sand sitting like pimples on the box’s face. Their consistency was what you would expect from a championship course. Firm enough to provide a stable address position, but malleable enough to plant and remove tees with ease.

courtesy-emerald-valley-golf-club-2Moving on into the fairway (hopefully). At Emerald Valley the fairways are easy to miss; they’re very narrow and have several doglegs that offer tempting opportunities to cut the corner and save a stroke for those golfers who classify themselves as “high risk, higher reward.” Each fairway is lined with old oak trees, offering a semi-permeable barricade for errant shots. But even more important than the barrier is the view. The tree-lined corridors of Emerald Valley provide dozens of opportunities for pictures. At one point, I stopped playing just to enjoy the atmosphere. There’s a druidic feel to Emerald Valley, often leading to moments of isolation promoting just you and the game.

courtesy-emerald-valley-golf-clubAfter a good iron shot or two (or ten) and you find yourself on the green, you’re in for a real treat. These greens are what make or break your score. They roll true and fast, even in the current conditions (I shudder to think their speed during peak summer season weather). Well-maintained and trimmed, the greens at Emerald Valley are a privilege to lip-out putts on. Their difficulty I attested to their hometown team, the Ducks. Emerald offers a challenging championship level course to cut their teeth on.

After your round should you find yourself in need of a celebratory drink or a back-nine-bargrieving one, the restaurant at Emerald Valley is a solid choice. The Front Nine Restaurant is a small, diner-like affair that has an unassuming air to it. Looks can be deceiving, because the food is fantastic. I highly recommend the patty melt. With a great kitchen comes a great bar. The Back Nine Bar offers a full bar that specializes in drinks made with fresh fruit juice. And it wouldn’t be a bar in Oregon without microbrew beers, which are present in the Back Nine’s draft selection.

In the pro shop, you’ll find yourself in the company of a kind and knowledgeable staff. I met Chris, the head pro, and his assistant professional, Colin (what are the odds?). I had a great chat with them 20161112_120112before and after my round. They couldn’t have been more accommodating and generous. U of O pride is alive and well in the pro shop, with an entire wall devoted to memorabilia of the team. The shop is stocked with several different brands of merchandise bearing the Emerald Valley logo for souvenir golfers (like me). If it’s used on a golf course, you can find at Emerald Valley.

So, everything I’ve said so far is the technical stuff about a golf course, the physical components that every golf course in the world has, just to varying degrees. That Emerald Valley’s amenities rank in the 95th percentile of courses I’ve had the pleasure to play made the visit a pleasure, but there’s one thing that can’t be measured physically, and that is character. Right before my round started, Chris told me how Emerald Valley is a very “old-school” golf course, with the greens and tees very close together. As I meandered the fairways I got a sense of nostalgia, which surprised me. It finally occurred to me that Emerald Valley reminded me of the course I used to play when I was a kid. It put me at ease during the tension of playing a new course and trying not to embarrass myself.

A championship course can seem daunting and intimidating to newcomers, but Emerald Valley has a very approachable demeanor and the course itself seeks to put you at ease. It’s a difficult course for sure, but with each swing the course makes you feel at home. The world needs more golf courses like Emerald Valley.

At a Glance

Emerald Valley Golf Club
83301 Dale Kuni Road
Creswell, OR 97426
http://www.emeraldvalleygolf.com/
Phone: (541) 895-2174

Stay and Play

The King’s Legacy: Nirvana at RunningY Ranch Resort

There are many crowns in golf, but there’s only one king.

arnold-palmer-captureOn September 25, 2016 the world said goodbye to the most iconic man to ever pick up a set of clubs. In a career that spanned over half a century, Arnold Palmer revolutionized the sport, taking it from something that aristocrats played to a game of the people, and for the people. With a cocktail of irresistible charm and playing ability (three parts charm and one part playing ability, to be exact) Arnold won majors and tournaments, but most importantly he opened golf to the world.

Arnold’s passing was tough for me. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. It was late, and I was getting ready for bed. I was cleaning my clubs after a particularly grueling round. As I wiped and scrubbed the dirt and fairway off my irons my phone buzzed with a text. Who’s texting me at this hour? I thought. It was my brother, my first and best golf buddy. It was a link to an article reporting the Mr. Palmer’s passing. I’m too young to have watched Arnold play, and my knowledge of him comes from reading articles and conversations, but I knew that I just experienced history. The King was dead.

Homage to the King

Last weekend I had the great fortune to play one of the finest courses in Arnold’s Kingdom, Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls, Oregon. It truly is a jewel in the crown of Arnold Palmer golf course design, and the best place for me to receive my basic training to join his army.

As my group walked off the practice green and onto the first tee, I heard my partner say, “Are you kidding me?” Confused, I turned to see who he was talking to, and what provoked such a comment.

“C’mon, let’s man up,” said one of our group as he stood at the tee box, grinning like he just aced a hole. Instead of white, blue, or black, these markers had dscf1253 paintings of Arnold’s signature umbrella. This guy wanted to play from the tips, the Palmer tees, to go head-to-head with the King’s course. Measuring out at 7,138 yards, I thought to myself, There’s confidence, there’s cocky, and there’s insanity. This certainly was the latter.

Of course, I obliged him.

img_1522What followed was five hours of the best, and most difficult golf I’ve ever dscf7195played. At times, the King’s spirit seemed playfully vindictive, needling us

with a few penalties for trying to go for the green from a difficult lie, and at other

img_1482_croptimes encouraging us, with a bit of Palmer-intervention to give a stray ball a favorable bounce or a fortunate ricochet off a tree. I dscf4328have no doubt that he was there with us, probably enjoying the audacity of four amateur golfers trying to conquer his course.

True to the intent of Palmer design, and the capable hands of Greg Morton, long-time course superintendent, the course was in impeccable condition. The fairways were manicured to the highest quality, offering bounces that were impressive even in the wet climate of November in Southern Oregon. After weeks of heavy rain, as Southern Oregon is doomed to get this time of year, I plugged a ball only once. All but a few fairways were flanked by trees throughout the course, offering isolation that only served to improve our relationship with the course, the game, and the King. I often forgot that I was playing golf (or trying to) because I was frequently lost in taking pictures of the area. Every hole was a framable work of art. The greens were fabulous. Blazingly fast, they offered challenges to everyone. Jaren Mack, the head pro, had warned us they were running a little fast. He was conservative in his estimate.

Off the course were some of the finest amenities that I’ve ever encountered. A 317well-stocked pro-shop selling everything from logo balls to name brand ruddy-duckclothing waited for us in the early morning mist. There were only the highest quality brands to choose from, Nike, Under Armor, FootJoy. Everything about the pro-shop screamed high caliber and professional. The highlight was the restaurant and lodge, serving some of the best tasting food I’ve had the pleasure to eat. If you find yourself at the lodge, I recommend the Elk Chili. I hated finishing it, it was so good. My partner had the Mac and Cheese. He said it was delicious. The dining room overlooks the 10th fairway, a gorgeous scene, subtly reminding you that you’re never far from the game.

Everything in the previous paragraphs has been said before, so I know I’m not breaking any new ground, but if you will allow me, I’d like to ditch the typical course spotlight format and just freestyle a little bit about what playing the King’s course meant to me, a young golfer in 2016.

To those who watched him in his prime, Arnold Palmer was a great golfer. As I previously mentioned, I didn’t get to witness those years. By the time I was born, his professional career was winding down. He hadn’t won a major in 28 years, or a senior major in 7. So, to me, Arnold Palmer isn’t a golfer, he’s an idea, a state of enlightenment about the game. He’s the embodiment of the idea that golf is meant to be a stress relieving game, not a stress inducing one. That golf is not about shaving strokes off of your handicap, but dscf1246simply enjoying spending time with friends you’ve known for ten years or ten minutes. It’s the belief that we are all united as golfers, and any time we let animosity get in the way, we’re sabotaging ourselves. We’re robbing ourselves of the moment. That’s what Arnold Palmer means to me. Play the game because you love the game, not because you want to win. Play a round sometime, and just golf. It won’t kill you. Forget the scorecard, forget the par, and forget the lost balls. Just exist in the moment with nothing but you and the game. That’s what the day was for us–nirvana. Yes, we kept score, to see how we stood up to the course, but the score didn’t matter, really. We played in the moment, with Arnie alongside.

Earlier I described Running Y as a golf course. How foolish of me. To those who have never played it, it’s a golf course. But to those of us who have walked its fairways and read its greens, it’s more than just a golf course. It’s a temple, designed by the first golf bodhisattva.

Let me explain. In the Buddhist religion, a bodhisattva (bo-dih-´saht-vuh) is one who refrains from entering enlightenment to aid others in their journey. And that’s exactly what Arnold Palmer did. With his 7 majors and 5 senior major wins, he could have ridden off into the Florida sunset and still be considered one of golf’s greatest golfers. But he didn’t. He became the figurehead of our sport. He designed courses, traveled the world, and continued to popularize our game long after his competition days were over. Arnold got to the state of enlightenment and said, “You know what, I’m not quite done.” He used the rest of his life to enlighten us all about what golf is.

At the end of the 18th hole at Running Y, a beautifully difficult par 4, we didn’t walk off with a handicap, we walked off enlightened.

Thanks, your Highness.

 

This Week’s Winners in Professional Golf!

Congratulations to this Week’s Winners in Professional Golf!

PGA-Euro LogoPGA Tour/European Tour: Team Denmark (Soren Kjeldsen, Thorbjorn Olesen), ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf (Melbourne, Australia), $2,560,000 first place prize money (split evenly between team members), -20 under par.

Photo: 2016 Team Denmark; Soren Kjeldsen (L), Thorbjorn Olesen (R), 2016 World Cup of Golf

PGA Tour-LogoPGA Tour – Next Event: Hero World Challenge, Albany, New Providence, Bahamas  (December 1-4)


EuropeanTourEuropean Tour – Next Event/s:

  • Australian PGA Championship, Queensland, Australia (December 1-4)
  • Alfred Dunhill Championship, Malelane, South Africa (December 1-4)

 

LPGA.comLPGA – Next Event: 2017 LPGA Schedule not yet announced


PGA Tour Champions-LogoPGA Tour Champions – Next Event: PNC Father Son Challenge (December 9-11)


Featured Image: Team Denmark; Soren Kjeldsen (L), Thorbjorn Olesen (R), 2016 World Cup of Golf, foxsports.com/au

BIO: Keith Cook has been a writer/contributing editor at thelocalgolfer.com since 2013. Follow Keith and Local Golfer on Twitter: @_KeithCook and @LocalGolfer.